The phrase ‘time management’ has become one of the most oft-repeated phrases of our society. Almost everyone thinks they need to improve their time management skills. The problem is that most people aren’t even examining what the real issue is. Instead, the average person will blame time itself. Think I am kidding? Let me demonstrate.
When I attend a social or business function and people discover that I am a productivity expert, the topic often turns to ‘time management.’ Many people will invariably say some version of, “I don’t have any time.” To which I then usually reply, “Actually, you have the same 24 hours in your day that every other human being has. What you’re really telling me is that you don’t like the way you are spending your time, or you have not been able to prioritize your tasks to maximize that 24 hours.” I usually get a long pause, and then if the person ‘gets it,’ he or she will have a small epiphany and reply, “Yes, that’s it! I wish I were managing my time better. I’m feeling out of balance.”
The reason that this common time management description irks me so much is that it essentially gives the person an excuse by blaming time itself, when the real issue generally lies with the person. While there may be some real issues involved that cause a person to get into a time management jam, it is also often the person’s lack of planning, procrastination, and failure to adequately prioritize that causes the time crunch.
People are not overwhelmed with time itself, but with what they fill that time with – all of the tasks and responsibilities that make up their busy schedules. That overwhelmed feeling is a lack of control over the passing of time. And that would actually be correct because no matter how hard you try, you cannot control the passing of time.
No matter how organized you are and how much you plan ahead, the reality of life steps in. Good time management techniques are in place so that when life throws you a curve ball, you can hit it and get back on base. You need techniques to put your plans into action so that you can avoid, to the extent possible, the time crunches that can come between you and your best life.
The phrase “time management” is itself an oxymoron. You can’t manage time, only what you choose to do with it. I often tell my clients that if I could invent a time machine and give them all a 25th hour in the day, I would. But until that amazing feat occurs (be patient, I’m working on it), we are all left on even playing field.
Indeed, time is the great equalizer. As Denis Waitley puts it, “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes each day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day.” Wise words.
Another phrase that I often hear is “Time is money.” This is actually a bit of a loaded topic for me. As a former practicing attorney, I am all too familiar with what it means to sell your time as a commodity. You are essentially selling your time (i.e., your life) in six-minute increments. The only valuable time is billable time. The decision to spend time doing anything other than billable work must be justified. It’s no wonder that chief among a host of reasons for the high dissatisfaction among lawyers is the pressure of high billable-hours requirements in large firms, which leads to a serious lack of life-work balance.
Time isn’t money – time is life itself. No amount of money in the world can buy a minute or an hour. That moment that just passed while you were reading that last sentence is now gone forever. To me, that is more of a motivator than money. I can make another dollar in my lifetime, but I can’t get back that moment. However, because time is so forgiving, I can start over each day, hoping to live it to the fullest and use all of its 24 hours in the best way possible.
So let the connection between time and life itself be the impetus you need for managing your time better. “Dost though love life, then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” ~ Benjamin Franklin